NEW YORK—Cisco Systems has aggressively expanded its IT solutions capabilities over the past several years, building on its expertise in network switches and routers to extend its reach into all parts of the data center.
The tech vendor has rolled out products including the Unified Computing System (UCS) for IT infrastructure and the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and Nexus 3000 and 9000 switches to address network virtualization. It also has bought dozens of companies to bolster its capabilities in everything from security and the cloud to the Internet of things (IoT) and enterprise software.
At an event here June 15, CEO Chuck Robbins and other Cisco executives introduced a data analytics platform that they said will enable businesses to monitor every part of their data centers, giving them unheard-of visibility and insights into everything from the systems themselves to the applications that run on them.
Cisco’s Tetration Analytics platform will enable customers to see in every packet traversing their networks and data from every sensor throughout the data, and will be able to collect the massive amounts of data generated and analyze it in real time to deliver actionable insights. In addition, it can give customers a historic view of what has occurred in the data center, let them see what is going on in real time and enable them to model what can occur in the future.
Right now, there are products from other vendors that enable organizations to do some of these tasks, Robbins said. However, “I contend that there is no solution out there that can do 100 percent of the data center, at wire speed, at scale,” he said during the event, held at the One World Trade Center building.
Frank Palumbo, senior vice president of worldwide data center sales at Cisco, called Tetration “a time machine for the data center. Not part of the data center or 60 percent of the data center—we’re talking all of the data center.”
Like other enterprise IT vendors, Cisco is developing analytics tools that can help customers gain control of the massive amounts of data being generated by such trends as IoT and the cloud. Cisco officials predict that the number of connected devices worldwide will grow to more than 50 billion in 2020 from 25 billion in 2014, and that those devices, sensors and systems will help drive generate zettabytes of data—much of which would be useless unless it can be collected, stored and analyzed. In addition, increasing numbers of enterprise applications are running the cloud, putting more pressure on organizations to better monitor and manage them.
Cisco, with its deep legacy in networking, is in a good position to bring such analytics capabilities to businesses, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research. The network has become a foundation of the continuing digitization of the enterprise, Kerravala told eWEEK.
“In a way, IT has come to the network,” he said. “We live in a world where everything is connected.”
Businesses increasingly are having a difficult time managing their environments due in large part to the lack of visibility into them, Kerravala said. Data centers have become extremely complex, and enterprises are spending as much as 83 percent of their IT dollars just keeping them up and running. In addition, three-quarters of application performance problems are detected by end users rather than the IT staff. All of these factors highlight the need for organizations to get a better handle on what is going on inside their data center.
“You can’t manage what you can’t see,” he said. “Visibility is really key to that.”
Cisco Unveils Tetration Analytics Platform for Data Center Monitoring
The Tetration Analytics platform, which has been in development for about two years, is designed to provide continuous monitoring, analysis and reporting of all aspects of the data center, according to Cisco executives. Businesses can move to a proactive from a reactive management stance by making informed operation decisions, and the continuous monitoring enables them to detect and address any abnormal patterns within the data center before they become significant problems, which include everything from hardware and software issues to security concerns.
“The network is going to play a big role in next-generation security architectures,” said David Goeckeler, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Networking and Security Business Group.
It will touch on everything from application insights and forensics to policy assessments, automated whitelisting and compliance.
Cisco’s strategy calls for installing software sensors on end hosts that can be either virtual machines or bare-metal servers, with the initial release supporting Linux and Windows server hosts. In addition, hardware sensors are put into the ASICs of the vendor’s Nexus 9200-X and 9300-EX network switches to collect flow data. A single Tetration appliance can monitor up to 1 million unique flows per second, officials said. The sensors for both the software and hardware send flow information back to the Tetration Analytics platform in real time.
The platform itself is an Intel-powered 39-node appliance with UCS 220 servers and Nexus 9300 switches prewired and software pre-installed. The appliance can be set up easily and deployed on-premises, with the first ones scheduled to be available in July.
Tetration is part of a larger push by Cisco to become an enterprise IT solutions and services vendor that can compete with the likes of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Dell. It is another step in the company’s shift away from simply making hardware products to become more software-focused.
Kerravala said that as Cisco evolves into an IT solutions provider, it will need to offer such products as analytics software to enterprises. Big data analytics a significant growth market that IDC analysts said will grow in worldwide revenues to more than $187 billion in 2019 from almost $122 billion last year.
Cisco officials earlier this month announced a partnership with IBM in which the two companies will combine Cisco’s network infrastructure and analytics capabilities with IBM’s Watson cognitive computing and business process management offerings to bring IoT insights to the edge of the network.